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Fafa Picault key to late rally in New England draw

Picault didn’t show up in the stat sheet but his run into the box created the late equalizer for the Union on Wednesday night

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

While Ilsinho off the bench has been the story of the Philadelphia Union’s second half success, it was Fafa Picault stepping up late on Wednesday night to help the team salvage a point.

He did it with a burst of speed to beat his man into the box before crossing it in front of goal and getting a favorable deflection off Andrew Farrell that Kacper Przybylko was then able to finish off in the 84th minute.

“I hate the bench, honestly, but my job is to come on when I have minutes and show what I’m capable of doing, like all the defenders around the league know it; it’s not a secret,” Picault said after the match in Foxborough. “Keep giving them problems and I think that’s what happens when I do that.”

Picault wasn’t credited for an assist on the play. He didn’t get one either on a long cross to Ilsinho that looked like a would-be game-winner until Ilsinho wasn’t able to get enough on to beat Brad Knighton. Picault has just a goal and a pair of assists in nearly 1,000 minutes of play this season after tying for the team lead in goals with 10 last season but his influence has still been felt like it was on Wednesday night.

“Having quality on your bench is critical in this league,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “You need guys that can come in and change the game. Both subs made a big impact for us. I think we’ve become almost too much of a second-half team. Maybe a lot of that is because Ilsinho is such a big part of what we do. We can wear teams down a little bit in the first half and let him run wild in the second. It’s kind of in our DNA right now, which is a good thing. I think Fafa [Picault] also changed the game as well.”

Przybylko took over the team lead in goals with five with the lone goal of the game while Sergio Santos had a chance inside the half hour mark he’ll want back. The attempt was his only shot registered on a night where he was whistled for a team-high four fouls. With Andrew Wooten expected to become available for selection on July 13, the pressure is on for the forwards to earn their minutes.

“We play football to produce,” Picault said. “Whether that’s as a striker or winger, my job is to give defenders problems and make them fear me. I’m not in competition with my teammates. I think I’ve proven what I’ve done the last two-and-a-half years and at this point it’s just continuing to do that and whatever happens, it’s not my decision.”